INTERVIEW WITH ASZMARA!!!!!


The first time I saw Aszmara dance was at Je Bon in NYC. I had never seen a dancer like her before. She came out, super high energy, playing her zills so fast that my mind was blown. She completely owned the stage, and it’s so hard to describe, but she made watching her an experience. Nothing she did was expected, it was so incredible. With over 35 years of experience under her belt, Aszmara brings grace, strength, confidence, power and passion to the stage. If you haven’t seen her dance yet you’re definitely missing out!

Lucky for you, she has a workshop coming up in just a couple of days, so please check out the info here! 😀

Take class with Aszmara!

And now for the interview….

TBB: How did you get started in belly dance?

AS: It all started on a dare from a friend who had a free pass from General Foods for a 10 week Belly Dance class at the local White Plains YMCA. She asked if I wanted to come with her and when I declined she countered, “Are you afraid?” “Of course not!” I exclaimed!  So on that dare I went to class and immediately fell in love with the music.  Then I saw the movements and I fell head over heels.  Over 35 years later, I am still falling head over heels, learning more, experiencing more and sharing the love and joy of this most beautiful art form.

 

TBB: Who were your most influential teachers and why?

AS: There are so many influential teachers throughout my dance life. Elena Lentini has to be top of my list – throughout her career she has pushed the boundaries of typical Belly Dance to extraordinary areas of expression.  She constantly inspires by her looking at things in a different way and has inspired me to go beyond the typical trappings of Belly Dance.

There is the late Alan Danielson, a modern teacher of the Limon style, whose courage, technique, lyricism and musical expression are carried with me.  The lyric nature and odd time signatures of his teaching fit so well to the music and expressions I strived to convey; his technique has kept my body dancing strongly and safely.  Alan’s courage was shown when one year after his heart transplant he returned to teaching and performing in concerts. Sadly, we lost him this year but we had so many extra years because of his transplant.

Souren Baronian and Haig Manoukian.  These two musicians I toured with for so many years taught me more about music than a Doctorate Degree ever could!

And finally, Roberta Koch, my dance partner in SaZ Dance Theatre from 1900 – 2010.  Together, we created visions that used Oriental Dance movements as a base and expanded to so many new horizons.  She taught me to be braver than I thought I could ever be in dance.

TBB: How did you develop your unique style?

AS: My entire life experience has developed my dance style, as has each one of your readers!  It was a choice I made to not imitate my teachers or a particular style but to be myself on that dance floor.  For many years I took three to four classes a week – from Ibrahim Farrah and Elena for Oriental, Valerie Camille for theater dance,  Marta Zorina for ballet and a variety of teachers of Flamenco, African, Haitian, Indian and Modern.  Every teacher adds to  the body’s movement vocabulary and technique – and every teacher’s response to music adds to expression of ideas.

I also performed in the last decade of bona fide NYC nightclubs where the bands were an International mix of musicians from all over the Middle East, all playing each others songs.  An example of one show, there’d be an  Arabic opening, an Armenian veil piece, a Morrocan 6/8, a Turkish Chititelli ending with a Greek Kashlima.  I watched other performers and especially the patrons dancing to their music and delightedly added their movement expressions to my experience.

 

TBB: What is your favorite song to dance to right now?

 AS: Ask a Mother who is her favorite child!  At present, I am working on several pieces for the upcoming Aszmara’s Intensive Dance Retreat Weekend.  Two Kashlima’s,
1.  “Djevria’s Dance/Saskin” from the group, Edessa on the CD Bereket (wonderful musicians I was lucky enough to work with in Berkely,CA this summer!)
2.  “Rumeli Karsilamasi” from Ensemble Hüsein Türkmenler on Oriental Dance from Turkey
3.  “I Love You” from Omar Faruk Tekbilek’s One Truth – this last one was written by Hasan Isakkut who was one the magnificent teachers at the Mendocino Middle Eastern Music and Dance Camp.  Hearing and seeing him play it at camp inspired me to use it for this year’s Intensive Dance Retreat Weekend.[spotify id=”spotify:user:1272124796:playlist:4QJNmyEx5TlhBpBBMY9C2H” width=”300″ height=”380″ /]
TBB: If you could meet any dancer from the past or present who would it be and why?

AS: I was lucky enough to be in New York when Nadia Gamal came to town.  Her words have stayed with me ever since as far as stance, deportment and inspiration.  I am also happy to be friends with the two incomparable performer/teachers/ethnologists, Sahra Saeeda and Artemis Mourat.  Both of these women are fonts of knowledge that I frequently drink from and whenever we are together, have wonderful sharing and laughing times.

 

TBB: Where is the coolest place you’ve ever danced?

AS: Mmmmm…. The coolest place I ever danced?  On top of a Swiss Mountain at the Uhuru World Festival,  Cruise Ship on the Mediterranean between Egypt & Turkey, Castles in Ireland, Wooster Theater in NYC with SaZ Dance Theatre, Mahrajan Festival in California, any of the New York Theatrical Belly Dance Venues – How do I choose the coolest!?!

 

TBB: What is the biggest challenge you’ve overcome as a dancer? 

AS: Biggest challenge I’ve overcome?  Being 4’11” with wild curly hair!  At a time when everyone had long, straight hair, there I was with my head of hair that has a life all it’s own!  It actually prevented me from being hired at a nightclub as being, “too ethnic!”

I just had to add a link to this article I just found! For all the other curly haired girls out there! 

 

TBB: I’ve seen this topic come up a lot lately, and I want to get your opinion on the place sexuality/sensuality has in belly dance.

AS: Dance is Sensual.  I have always contended that there is a thin line between sensual and sexual and I stay on the sensual side.  I never thought of the dance as sexual even though, for certain audience’s mind, there is a sexual fantasy mind set (Bachelor Parties and drunken stupid men for example).  Sensual is so much sexier than sexual – the audience feels your sensuality but needs not be the overwhelming influence of the performance.

 

TBB: What is the best dance advice you’ve ever received? What advice would you give? 

AS: Best advise given:  Only smile when you mean it!  Advise to pass on:  Dance your true self, with real emotion, passion and connectivity to music and the audience.

 

TBB: Anything else you want to add?

AS: Keep dancing – go to as many classes as you can to be your own authentic self.  And come to my Classes and Workshops and feel your Emotion in Motion!

Thank you Aszmara!!!!

Watch this awesome woman dance below!
For more info. visit Aszmara’s site here.

 

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7 Comments

thebellyblog13
Reply September 17, 2014

p.s. see if you can spot Aszmara in one of the photos in this post: http://thebellyblog.com/2014/03/18/belly-beatzzzzzzzz-sugar-mary-vartanian/comment-page-1/#comment-76

Christine Rowland
Reply September 18, 2014

I am lucky enough to be able to take classes with Aszmara. She is truly a master teacher as well as a true mentor and a shining example of the type of dancer I aspire to be.

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